Belarus and the European Union. From confrontation to the dialogue
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Republic of Belarus as an independent state appeared on the map of Europe only in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Currently, Belarus is a middle-size country on the borderland between the European Union and Russia. Although politically Belarus is independent, it takes part in the political and economic unions within the post-soviet region, such as Eurasian Economic Union. Belarus is also in the bilateral union with Russia. Therefore its foreign policy depends on these Unions. From 1994 when the country turned from the Parliamentary to the Presidential Republic, an authoritarian political regime of Alexander Lukashenko has been established: conservative in domestic issues and politically oriented to Russia. This political factor influences Belarusian foreign policy. Belarus participated in the Wider Europe and Eastern Neighborhood Program, being an outsider in both programs because until recently both sides, Belarus and the European Union, prioritized their own interests and did not make any political compromises. Under the influence of recent political and economic changes in the region (protracted economic crises, escalation of Russian-Ukrainian conflict after 2014 Maidan revolution, long-lasting Western anti-Belarus political and economic sanctions) Belarus has started a new wave of post-soviet transition. Still being nationalistic and paternalistic, the country is becoming more open to the West and making steps forward the European Union. For this reason, in 2015 most of the Western political and economic sanctions were suspended, and the relationship between the European Union and Belarus got improved. It is still unclear what will be the next steps in the EU-Belarus affairs. However, geopolitical position of Belarus as a borderland between the East and the West makes it necessary to promote multilateral policy and develop political, economic and cultural dialogue with the European Union.